OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by President Obama before Restricted Bilateral Meeting
Source: WH, 2-19-14
Palacio De Gobierno Del Estado De Mexico
1:00 P.M. CST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me thank President Peña Nieto for his wonderful hospitality in hosting us here today. And it’s a special treat to be able to visit his home town of Toluca.
This is my fifth visit to Mexico, and I think it underscores the incredible importance of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, not only on commercial issues and security issues, but because of the intimate person-to-person relations that exist between our two countries.
I want to congratulate President Peña Nieto on the outstanding efforts that he’s made during the course of this year on a whole range of reforms that promise to make Mexico more competitive and increase opportunity for the people of Mexico. And I’m also very interested in hearing President Peña Nieto’s strategies as he embarks on dealing with some of the reforms in the criminal justice system and around security issues, which I know are very pressing on his mind and where we have some excellent cooperation between the United States and Mexico.
More broadly, the North American Leaders Summit gives us an opportunity to build on the enormous progress that we’ve already made in making sure that North America is the most competitive region in the world and that we are able not only to continue to integrate our economies effectively to create jobs both in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but that we’re able to project American and Mexican and Canadian goods and services around the world toward the benefit of our people.
And the cooperation ranges from how do we make our borders more efficient to moving forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that offers the opportunity to open up new markets in the fastest, most populous region of the world, the Asia Pacific region.
We’ll also have the opportunity to discuss how we can work together more closely on scientific and educational exchanges. We’re particularly interested in making sure that young people in Mexico and the United States and Canada are able to study and travel in each country, and we’re trying to expand those kinds of exchanges.
So this is a wonderful opportunity for us to build on the work that we’ve already done over the last year.
With the President’s indulgence, let me say one last thing, and that is about the situation in Ukraine, which obviously has captured the attention of the entire world.
The United States condemns in strongest terms the violence that’s taking place there. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as both the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to assure that that violence ends.
But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way; that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.
And I want to be very clear that as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we are going to be watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters. We’ve said that we also expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful. And we’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line. And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.
So the United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine, and ultimately our interest is to make sure that the Ukrainian people can express their own desires. And we believe that a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe, and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity.
But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future, it is important that it is the people themselves that make those decisions. And that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.
And I do think there is still the possibility of a peaceful transition within Ukraine, but it’s going to require the government, in particular, to actively seek that peaceful transition, and it requires the opposition and those on the streets to recognize that violence is not going to be the path by which this issue will be resolved.
Thank you very much.
1:10 P.M. CST